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Romney spokesman disputes account of campaign shakeup, Big Bird ad

October 09, 2012|By Maeve Reston
  • Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund members dressed in Sesame Street costumes protest outside a campaign stop for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney at the Koch Family Farm in Van Meter, Iowa.
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund members dressed in… (Charlie Neibergall / Associated…)

DES MOINES -- Mitt Romney's spokesman rejected as "a bunch of nonsense" a Politico story that said chief strategist Stuart Stevens has scaled back his campaign duties after what the publication described as a "family intervention" in which Ann Romney and her son Tagg urged the Republican presidential candidate to pursue a different course.

"It doesn't make any sense to any of us who are on the campaign," Romney spokesman Kevin Madden told reporters traveling on the campaign plane from Virginia to Iowa on Tuesday. "Everyone right now is working really hard and really well together -- very focused on getting the governor's message out."

"Everybody knows their lane," he added.

Stevens has been a controversial figure on the campaign -- in part because of his outsized role as strategist, speechwriter and ad man. But Madden said there had been no change to his role.

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Polls before the first debate showed the race tightening in some swing states, and Romney has pulled marginally ahead of President Obama nationally since the Oct. 3 debate, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. But Madden said the campaign "has never gotten too high when things are good or too low when things are bad."

"We're going to be well positioned in this race," he said. "You can't put too much stock in this idea of momentum. I think it's a very elusive thing."

Madden also shrugged off a new attack ad from the Obama campaign featuring Big Bird. The ad parodies Romney's vow to eliminate public funding for PBS -- one of the few specific spending cuts the former Massachusetts governor has outlined -- by suggesting Romney is more concerned with Sesame Street than Wall Street.

"Right now, you've got 23 million Americans struggling to find work, you've got household incomes going down, you've got a federal deficit, a federal debt that's now over $16 trillion," Madden said. "And I just find it troubling that the president's message, the president's focus, 28 days from election day is Big Bird."

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Apparently Big Bird also was troubled. The creators of Sesame Street called for the Obama campaign to stop showing the ad.

"Sesame Workshop is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization and we do not endorse candidates or participate in political campaigns," says a statement posted Tuesday on "We have approved no campaign ads, and as is our general practice, have requested that the ad be taken down."

"We've received and will review their concerns," an Obama campaign official told the Hill.

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